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Republicans Point Toward 1st of 2 South Carolina Debates

By: David Espo, Associated Press
By: David Espo, Associated Press

Romney: Scrap campaign finance laws

Myrtle Beach, SC (AP) - Mitt Romney says he'd like to scrap campaign finance laws that have given rise to a war of independent attack ads from political action committees. Romney said he'd instead like to allow candidates to accept unlimited donations and take responsibility for their own words.

The comment came as Romney sparred with Newt Gingrich over inaccuracies in ads being bankrolled by super PACs.

Romney called the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law "a disaster." The law regulates campaign donations.

The former Massachusetts governor said the solution was to "let people make contributions they want to make to campaigns; let campaigns then take responsibility for their own words."

Gingrich has suggested he would also support unlimited donations to candidates so long as they had to report them the same day.

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Candidates disagree over indefinite detention

Myrtle Beach, SC (AP) - The Republican candidates have sharp disagreements over a new policy to detain American citizens suspected of terrorism.

President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow indefinite detention of such terror suspects. Many civil liberties activists believe the law is unconstitutional.

Front-runner Mitt Romney said he would have signed the law and insisted it was "appropriate" to detain American members of al-Qaida. Romney called membership in the group "treason" and said the U.S. government has the right to impose indefinite detention.

Rick Santorum said a U.S. citizen who is detained as an enemy combatant should have the right to a lawyer and to appeal their case before a federal court.

Ron Paul said holding American citizens indefinitely is a breach of the U.S. judicial system.

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Gingrich defends remarks on the poor, food stamps

Myrtle Beach, SC (AP) - Newt Gingrich is refusing to back down from comments he made about the poor.

In a debate Monday night in South Carolina, Gingrich was asked whether his previous remarks about food stamps and allowing children to work janitor jobs to instill a work ethic were "insulting," particularly to African Americans.

Gingrich replied that "only the elites despise earning money." The former House speaker said he won't stop raising the issues simply because liberals become uncomfortable.

Gingrich said he believes "every American of every background has been endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness."

And he said that he will "continue to find ways to help poor people "learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job and learn someday to own the job."

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Paul promises deep cuts in military spending

Myrtle Beach, SC (AP) - Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul says he will make deep cuts to the military budget even though many voters in South Carolina and elsewhere are employed by the military.

The Texas congressman was grilled Monday on his position on military spending during a nationally televised presidential debate. He has called for closing bases overseas and reducing spending on what he calls the military industrial complex.

Paul said he wants to protect military jobs domestically and insists there's a difference between military spending and a strong national defense.

Paul said conservatives should insist on cutting spending on military projects, not just domestic spending. He said overseas military spending should be cut before trimming federal jobless benefits for the long-term unemployment.

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Perry defends states' rights

Myrtle Beach, SC (AP) - Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry is blasting the Obama administration for intruding on states' rights.

In a Republican debate in South Carolina Monday night, the Texas governor said the state "is at war with this federal government and this administration."

He criticized the Obama administration for slapping down South Carolina's voter identification law, which would require voters to show a photo ID before casting a ballot. He also objected to the Justice Department suing the state over its tough immigration law.

The Texas governor said the most egregious example of federal government overreach was the National Labor Relations Board intervening in a right to work state. He was referring to a ruling against Boeing, which moved production from Washington to South Carolina.

Perry called the federal actions "irresponsible" and "unconstitutional."

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Santorum on defense over votes in Congress

Myrtle Beach, SC (AP) - Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is on the defensive against criticism for his votes supporting President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" law and his rejection of anti-union legislation.

The former senator from Pennsylvania said Monday in a debate of presidential candidates in South Carolina that it was a mistake to vote for Bush's signature sweeping education overhaul. He now wants to repeal it. And he said he voted against right-to-work legislation only because his state was against it. Santorum says he supports right-to-work legislation.

He made the comments in response to criticism from Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Santorum is presenting himself as the conservative alternative to Romney, who is the front-runner in the South Carolina primary on Saturday.

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Republicans Point Toward 1st of 2 South Carolina Debates

Myrtle Beach, SC (AP) - The Republican presidential contenders are campaigning their way into the first of two debates before a decisive weekend vote in South Carolina.

Hours before the candidates were to gather Monday night in Myrtle Beach, S.C., for the Fox News Channel-sponsored forum, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman announced he was withdrawing from the race and endorsing front-runner Mitt Romney.

Huntsman said Romney, despite their differences, is the candidate "best equipped" to defeat President Barack Obama in the fall.

Romney savored the endorsement while his four pursuers struggled to emerge as the leading conservative candidate alternative to him. That dynamic was likely to play out on the debate stage, as well.

A second debate is scheduled for Thursday in Charleston, S.C.

South Carolina holds its Republican presidential primary on Saturday.


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